'Megaproject' bill dead after Senate vote

Posted June 1


— One day after a questionable vote advanced a House bid to create a new fund for large transportation projects, Senate leaders voted it down resoundingly on the floor Thursday.

House Bill 110 would have created a new "megaproject" fund that would be outside the state's Strategic Transportation Investment program, a 2013 overhaul of the state's transportation funding system championed by Sens. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, and Kathy Harrington, R-Gaston.

The bill didn't allocate any money for the new fund, but sponsor Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, said it could serve as a tool if future lawmakers choose to raise taxes or fees to fund it. It would be managed by a "work group" not subject to the STI's rules.

During a Senate Transportation Committee hearing Wednesday, an angry Harrington said the bill would undermine the apolitical structure of the STI, calling it "the single worst piece of legislation I've seen in my years here."

But Rabon said he would support it "with trepidation," noting the challenges of finding funding for large-scale needs like repairs to Interstate 95.

The measure passed the committee on a vote that sounded very much like it had failed and then sped through Rabon's Rules Committee on Thursday and onto the Senate floor.

On the floor, Rabon took the opposite position, urging his colleagues to defeat House Bill 110.

"We took the politics out of transportation, and that was a huge step, and the world took notice when we did that," Rabon said. "To go back on that and to put politics back in, is a step backwards into the last century. I don’t think we can afford for that to happen.

"To go forward with this measure today would be going back on our word," he argued.

The vote was 1-44, defeating the bill nearly unanimously.

Under Senate Rule 53a, if a measure fails a floor vote, its contents or principal provisions "shall not be embodied in any other measure."

Had the bill simply failed its vote in the Transportation Committee, it's not clear if it would have been excluded from further consideration. However, failing a floor vote ensures the megaproject provision cannot be included in the final budget deal or in any other bill this session.


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